New River Gorge national park in West Virginia now attracting more runners

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New River Gorge national park in West Virginia now attracting more runners
Runners cross the New River Gorge Bridge during the annual Bridge Day 5K in October. (Photo courtesy of Jay Young)

BECKLEY, W.Va. — The fantastic recreational opportunities in the New River Gorge in West Virginia are no longer a secret. Since becoming one of America’s newest national parks, the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve has grown even more popular.

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What does this amazing destination in rural West Virginia have to offer? More than 70,000 acres of hikable, bikeable, raftable, and climbable public land along 53 miles of the rugged New River in the longest, deepest river gorge in the Appalachian Mountains.

However, running is an increasingly attractive recreational pursuit emerging in the region.


Running at the New River Gorge

Want to go for a run in the New River Gorge? Avid runner Brandon Mehlinger says there are two trails in the gorge that every runner must experience.

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The New River Gorge Bridge spans the national park, as seen from the Long Point Trail. (Photo courtesy Teresa Bergen)

“Two of the best trails in the New River Gorge National Park for trail running are Long Point Trail and Kaymoor Miner's Trail,” says Mehlinger, a spokesperson for .

“Long Point trail is a three-mile out-and-back that leads you to a stunning view of the river and the bridge," he said.

"Kaymoor Miner's trail takes you down through the remnants of an old coal mine area. It’s a unique trail that offers a challenging 821-step staircase at the bottom and can branch off in different ways on the way back up depending on how far you’re looking to run.”


Running Events in the New River Gorge

If you like to plan your travel around races, the New River Gorge offers two big events — the in October and the six-mile in May.

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A runner rounds a curve in the New River Gorge. (Photo courtesy of Active Southern West Virginia)

Both involve the stunning and much-photographed New River Gorge Bridge, which runners pass under during the rim-to-rim, Mehlinger says.

“The Bridge Day 5K allows runners the only opportunity of the year to run on the bridge,” he says. “Runners get to see the park and all its glory from above and get to visualize the scale of it all.

"Both races give runners unparalleled views of the park – one from below, and the other from above.”

Can’t make a race day? Drop in for one of Active Southern West Virginia’s in Fayetteville or Beckley to explore trails inside the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.

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Originally from Connecticut, Mehlinger came to West Virginia in 2022 as an AmeriCorps volunteer. Part of his role was expanding the organization's program for rural elementary schools.

Now, he’s the program coordinator of Active Southern West Virginia and an advocate of the community and running.

“The New River Gorge national park holds a unique allure for running enthusiasts, and it’s not just about the breathtaking scenery, although that’s certainly a major part of it,” he said.

“What truly makes this place special for running is the heart and soul of the community that surrounds it. West Virginians are a close-knit group of individuals who take immense pride in their outdoors. The trails in the park follow century-old paths, revealing the history of timber and coal industries.”

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Mehlinger urges people to get out on the trails to hike, mountain bike, or run. “It’s the people, the shared love for running, and the sense of community that makes every stride in this park truly special.”

Active Southern West Virginia is an initiative of the established to inspire residents and visitors to get active outside.

(Writer of USA Today Outdoors Wire contributed this story.)


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